How many calories does surfing burn?

The amount of calories you burn while surfing depends on your weight, surf conditions, temperature, the time between waves and lots of other variables.

So how many calories does surfing burn? The table below estimates the calories burned surfing in different sizes of waves and wind conditions.

Wave Size & ConditionsApproximate Calories Burned
Small (Clean/Offshore) Waves200
Small (Messy/Onshore) Waves500
Medium (Clean/Offshore) Waves300
Medium (Messy/Onshore) Waves600
Large (Clean/Offshore) Waves400
Large (Messy/Onshore) Waves
Please note the data in this table is based on 2 hours of surfing

So how many calories does surfing burn?

Now you’ve got a general idea of how many calories you’ll burn during a 2-hour surf let’s take a look at why messy conditions are so much more taxing on your body and your energy reserves.

Small (Clean/Offshore) Waves: Calories Burned 200

Small clean surf is great fun and some of my best sessions have been in small clean conditions but it’s not going to burn a lot of calories for a few reasons:

  • Small clean surf leads to crowded lineups and fewer waves to go around.
  • Paddle-outs are easy.
  • Opportunity for inside waves is reduced due to the small waves.

Small (Messy/Onshore) Waves: Calories Burned 500

Messy waves even when small lead to much more paddling. Swell is normally closer together with low wave periods and the onshore wind backing up the waves will make the waves break further out, leading to you guessed it, longer paddle outs.

Medium (Clean/Offshore) Waves: Calories Burned 300

As waves get larger you generally have to paddle further and duck dive more, even in clean conditions. The increase in wave size means you can often pick up inside waves on the paddle back out, burning more calories than small clean waves.

Medium (Messy/Onshore) Waves: Calories Burned 600

When the wave size increases but the winds are still onshore your paddle out can start to become quite a marathon. This depends on the break you are surfing, but normally messy onshore waves are closer together meaning a lot more duck diving to reach the lineup.

Large (Clean/Offshore) Waves: Calories Burned 400

Surfing large waves poses its own set of potential hurdles. Sets will sometimes break outside of the impact zone, leaving any surfers to try and paddle hard to the horizon to avoid getting pushed back towards shore.

Duck dives also become harder and harder as more water moves through the wave. Bad timing can leave you being dragged back 10’s of metres into more incoming waves or worse a rocky coastline.

Large (Messy/Onshore) Waves: Calories Burned 700

Without a doubt the most taxing conditions, large onshore waves are a cardio challenge even for professional surfers.

Match the unpredictability of messy onshore waves with large peaks ranging across the lineup and you have the recipe from some serious paddling just to stay away from the impacting waves, let alone thinking about catching one.

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